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indigen 01-05-2010 11:53 PM

Babylonian scribes settled upon A-lek-sa-an-dar.
Bryn Mawr Classical Review: Finally, it is interesting to take a look at the spelling of Alexander's name in the cuneiform texts

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.02.13


Finally, it is interesting to take a look at the spelling of Alexander's name in the cuneiform texts. The correct rendering of Alexandros would have been A-lek-sa-an-dar-ru-su, but until now, no tablet has been discovered that uses this Greek name. Instead, after some first attempts to render the conqueror's name, the Babylonian scribes settled upon A-lek-sa-an-dar. Probably, this only shows that the scribes found it difficult to render a foreign name. On the other hand, it can not be excluded that Alexandar is the Macedonian name by which the conqueror of Asia was known to his courtiers. Cuneiform renderings of Seleucus (Si-lu-uk-ku) and other names may also offer clues for linguists studying the Macedonian language.



Soldier of Macedon 01-06-2010 12:03 AM

This is interesting, and the possibility of names such as Alexander, Phillip, etc being non-Greek to begin with is likely. I have also wondered why everybody apart from the Greeks says, phonetically, Aleksandar - In Asia as Iskandar or Sikandar, and never Iskandros, Sikandros, etc. You would think, as a foreigner hearing the name of "Alexandros" for the first time, that the adaptation would be similar, ie; with an "os" suffix at least. But that is not the case.

makedonin 01-06-2010 06:10 AM

The [B]OS[/B] suffix on the end of the Greek words is added to the Nouns which are maculine in the Nominative case.

It appears that it would be in Greek "o Alexandros" which makes the name Maculine.

Interestingly, the Alexander I, the grandfather of Alexander III had this coin:


On the coin we read: ALE[IMG][/IMG]ANDRO in original ΑΛΕ[IMG][/IMG]ΑΝΔΡΟ

See more here: [url][/url]

The character [IMG][/IMG] is the phonecian letter samekh, reads as sharp [B]S[/B] similar to the German sharp [B]S[/B] represented by [B]ß[/B]. The pronountiation is also close to the Modern Macedonian [B]S[/B] which is also pronouced sharper than the usual European [B]S[/B].

More on the pronountiation here: [url][/url] there is also sound file with the pronountiation.

So on the coin we read [B]ALESANDRO[/B] and not the [B]ALEXANDROS[/B].

That opens interesting perspective.

Bratot 01-06-2010 07:05 AM

Excelent find.

I have been looking for something like this for a long time.

Bratot 01-06-2010 09:14 AM


Bratot 01-06-2010 09:24 AM

There is a problem here. [B]The Babylonian text contradicts the Greek source [/B]that is often accepted as the best, Arrian. He says that Darius was the first to turn and run, after which the other Persians followed suit (Anabasis 3.14.3). One way to harmonize these conflicting pieces of information is to render 'The army abandoned Darius' as 'Darius abandoned his army'.6 Suspending the rules of grammar, however, will not solve the problem. [B]We must accept that either Arrian or the Diary is wrong, and in this case we must prefer the Babylonian source, which was written two weeks after the battle[/B]. In my opinion, H & Y should have included the text of the Diary in their book and could have ignored Arrian, who misrepresented the crucial stage of the battle.

[B]The same cuneiform tablet [/B]offers an interesting account of Alexander's diplomatic moves before entering Babylon. We read about his offer to rebuild the temple of Marduk and learn how he announced that the houses of the Babylonians would not be looted. [U]These negotiations are not mentioned by Curtius Rufus and Arrian[/U], who state that the Macedonians prepared for battle when they approached Babylon (History of Alexander 5.1.19 and Anabasis 3.16.3).[B] More intriguingly, the Diary makes it clear that Alexander did not send Macedonian envoys, but Greeks[/B]. Did he consider it unsafe to send the very soldiers who had recently fought against the Babylonian cavalry?

Bratot 01-06-2010 09:42 AM

something more



2004: BMCR 2004.02.13 [Online]: Jona Lendering, reviewing W. Heckel/J.C. Yardley,

Alexander the Great. Historical Sources in Translation, etc. [Blackwell Publishing, 2004] and commenting on the cuneiform rendering of the name Aleksandros [ÉAl°jandrow] as A-lek-sa-an-dar, which would imply that <<Alexandar is the Macedonian name>>; also the name Seleukos [S°leukow], cuneiform Si-lu-uk-ku, <<may also offer clues for linguists studying the Macedonian language>>. However, cf. the rendering of the name Aleksandros in Latin as Alexander, paralleling Alexandar [the name Seleukos is Seleucus]; as to a <<Macedonian language>>, where is that evidence?, although a study of the cuneiform rendering of Greek/Makedonian names may be of some interest.

A-lik-sa-an-dar = ÉAl°jandrow

An-ti-gu-ik-su = ÉAnt€gonow

An-ti-gu-nu-su = ÉAnt€gonow

An-ti-É-ku-su = ÉAnt€oxow

An-ti-É-uk-su = ÉAnt€oxow

At-tu-gu-un = ÉAnt€gonow

E-man-na-a-a = ÜEllhn

Ia-a-ma-na-a-a = ÜEllhnew

Ma-ak-du-nu = Maked≈n (Makedon€a)

Ma-ak-ka-du-nu = Maked≈n (Makedon€a)

Pi-il-ip-su = F€lippow

Pi-lip-i-si = F€lippow

Pi-lip-su = F€lippow

Si-lu-ku = S°leukow

Si-lu-uk-ku = S°leukow

The names are taken from A. K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, vol. V: Texts from Cuneiform Sources, ed. A. Leo Oppenheim, et alii (J.J. Augustin Publisher, 1975)


Volk 01-06-2010 07:14 PM

Interesting indeed, however if this was the case why use "Aleksandros" on Macedonian coins?

Soldier of Macedon 01-06-2010 07:17 PM

They are coins with Greek inscriptions, I am not sure if Alexander minted coins in another language, I don't think the Illyrians and Thracians did either.

indigen 01-06-2010 11:40 PM

[QUOTE=makedonin;31225]The [B]OS[/B] suffix on the end of the Greek words is added to the Nouns which are maculine in the Nominative case.

It appears that it would be in Greek "o Alexandros" which makes the name Maculine.

Interestingly, [COLOR="Red"]the Alexander I, the grandfather of Alexander III [/COLOR]had this coin:

So on the coin we read [B]ALESANDRO[/B] and not the [B]ALEXANDROS[/B].

That opens interesting perspective.[/QUOTE]

Point of clarification, Alexander I was not the Grandfather of Alexander III Makedonski, he reigned much earlier than that. He was not even grandfather of Filip II Makedonski.

Good point on the coin inscription and we should look at other Macedonian royal coinage issues, especially some of the early ones.



Alexander I, B.C. 498-454. With the possible exception of certain coins struck at Aegae, the old capital of Macedon, with the letters ΑΛ, ΑΛΕ, &c. (Babelon, Traité, II. i. p. 1098), there are no coins of Alexander I of an earlier date than B.C. 480, about which time, by his conquest of the Bisaltae, he made himself master of those prolific mines which are said to have yielded him as much as a talent of silver daily.

This fresh influx of money, and the opening up of a new commercial route from Macedon to the Greek towns of the Thracian coast, by way of the valley of the Strymon, doubtless occasioned the change in standard from Babylonic to Phoenician, which now took place in the Macedonian currency.

The earlier coins of Alexander’s long reign resemble in their rude and forcible style, and frequently also in type, the inscribed octadrachms of the Bisaltae. The specimens assignable to the latter part of his reign are much more refined in style, but as they are frequently without inscriptions it is in many cases impossible to draw a line between these and the coins of his successor Perdiccas.

Earlier issues. Style rude.

ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟ written round an incuse square within which is a linear sq. containing a goat to r.

ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟ written round an inc. sq. within which is a quadripartite linear sq. in low relief (Fig. 130)

ΑΛΕ in three corners of inc. and linear sq. containing forepart of goat, &c.
AR Tetradr., 202.3 grs.

Perdiccas II, B.C. 454-413. There are various, mostly uninscribed, Macedonian coins of Phoenician weight, with types resembling those here assigned to Alexander I, but of more recent style, which probably belong to the reign of Perdiccas. The absolutely certain and inscribed coins of this king are less numerous.
ΠΕΡΔΙΚ Helmet in incuse square.
AR Tetrobol.

Π]ΕΡ Forepart of lion in incuse square.
AR Diobol

ΠΕΡ Club and bow in incuse square.
AR Diobol

Archelaus I, B.C. 413-399. From the beginning of the fifth century we have seen that the Phoenician stater (wt. 230-220 grs.) had been in use for the royal coinage of Macedon, but with the accession of Archelaus this stater was exchanged for one of 170 grs., which, from its weight (equivalent to two Persian sigli), has been designated as the Persic stater. The money of the two important cities of Abdera and Maroneia also underwent a like transformation at the same time. The causes of this change of standard remain unexplained.
ΑΡΧΕΛΑΟ Forepart of goat in incuse and linear square (Fig. 131).
AR Stater, 160 grs.

ΑΡΧΕΛ Eagle in incuse square.
AR Diobol.

ΑΡΧ Forepart of wolf; above, club.
AR Obol, 14 grs.

ΑΡΧΕΛΑΟ Club, quiver, and bow.
Æ Size .7

ΑΡΧΕ Forepart of boar or forepart of butting bull.
Æ .5

Aëropus (= Archelaus II), B.C. 396-392.
ΑΕΡΟ[Π]Ο Horse with loose rein.
AR Stater, 159 grs.

ΑΕΡΟ Forepart of wolf; above, club.
AR Obol.

ΑΕΡΟ Wolf’s head and club.
AR ½ Obol, 7 grs.

ΑΕΡΟΠΟ Horse walking.
Æ .6

Pausanias, B.C. 390-389.
ΠΑΥΣΑΝΙΑ Horse standing in linear sq.
AR Stater, 160 grs.

Amyntas III, First Reign, B.C. 389-383.

„ „ Second Reign, B.C. 381-369.

Some of the coins bearing the name of Amyntas may belong to the short reign of Amyntas II.

ΑΜΥΝΤΑ Horse standing in linear and inc. sq.
AR Stater, 143 grs.

ΑΜΥΝΤΑ Forepart of wolf.
Æ .4

Alexander II, B.C. 369-368. No coins can be certainly attributed to this king; but see Imhoof, Porträtköpfe, p. 13.

Perdiccas III, B.C. 365 or 364-359.

ΠΕΡΔΙΚΚΑ Horse trotting; beneath, club.
AR Stater, 159 grs.

Philip II, B.C. 359-336. Philip of Macedon, having obtained posses- sion of the hitherto unworked gold mines of Pangaeum (B.C. 356), the immense output of which rapidly brought down the market price of gold in relation to silver in European Greece from 12: 1 (its then rate of exchange at Athens) to 10: 1, found it politically as well as financially expedient to reorganize the Macedonian currency on a new system modelled upon, though not identical with, that of Athens. His new gold stater, which was destined to obtain a world-wide reputation, rivalling that of the old Persian daric, he made equivalent to the Athenian gold stater of 135 grs., which had, hitherto, at the existing ratio of 12:1, been tariffed at 24 Attic drachms of 67.5 grs.

AV Stater, 133 grs.

ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ Bearded Macedonian horse- man wearing kausia and chlamys, right hand raised.
AR Tetradr

ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ Youth on horse.
AR Didr., 112 grs

ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ Naked horseman prancing
AR Tetrob., 40 grs.

Alexander the Great, B.C. 336-323. The coinage of Alexander is a branch of Numismatics too extensive and complicated for discussion in detail in the present work. The gold Philippi and the silver tetra- drachms (225 grs.) of his father Philip had, for a period of about twenty years, been the chief currency throughout Philip’s European dominions, and it is hardly likely that Alexander would have abolished these coins and introduced a new standard (the Attic) for his silver money until he found himself compelled to do so for commercial reasons. The fall in the price of gold in relation to silver was probably one, though not per- haps the chief, of these reasons. The general depreciation of gold made it no doubt impossible for him to maintain, by royal decree, the old relation of 13.3: 1 to silver which had prevailed in the East down to the fall of the Persian Empire, according to which 1 gold Daric of about 130 grs. was tariffed as equivalent to 20 silver sigloi of about 86½ grs., or to 10 silver staters of Persic wt., of about 173 grs. The inveterate con- servatism of the East, which could brook no change in the number of silver coins exchangeable for a gold piece, would not however be startled by a modification of the weights of the two denominations.

ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ Eagle on fulmen, his head usually turned back; symbols, caduceus, eagle’s head, bull’s head facing, ear of corn.
AR Drachm (Attic)

ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ Eagle on fulmen; symbols, pentalpha, caduceus, cres- cent.
AR ½ Drachm.

ΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ (rarely with ΒΑΣΙ- ΛΕΩΣ) Winged Nike holding mast with spar (naval standard, Z. f. N., xxv. p. 215); various mint-marks and monograms.
AV Distater, 266 grs.

NB: In above list not one Macedonian coin to be found where name of the king ends in "os"! Is there such coins?



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